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Richard Stallman: KDE Followup

Sep 11, 2000, 12:28 (60 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Richard Stallman)

By Richard Stallman

Until recently, I regarded KDE as causing a problem for our community. The release of Qt under the GPL solved that problem, and now I have no reason to be against KDE. I am not against KDE, though I am still for GNOME. A few days ago I wrote an article to say so. My reward was a string of tirades.

KDE is not a problem now, but there are possible problems for some parts of KDE in regard to use of the GPL. I believe these problems can be solved, and since I am not against KDE, I would like them to be solved. So I pointed them out, and then did what I could to help solve them in order to ask others to cooperate in solving them.

There is no hostility towards KDE in any of this, and there was none in my article. But a number of people seem to have read hostility into it--in effect misunderstanding it by 180 degrees.

Many readers misunderstood details of the article as well, seeing attacks where there were none. Some saw my pointing out a correctable problem for KDE as an attack on KDE. Some saw hostility in my GNOME "team cheer", but the point was just the opposite: trying to outdo the other team and win the match is not hostility.

Meanwhile, everything I said that was well-disposed or helpful was disregarded, or perhaps not accurately perceived. Some readers managed to find an insult in my use of the word "forgiveness". I mentioned the possibility that GNOME and KDE could be merged, and yet received criticism for not suggesting it.

I think that these readers read my article through a filter of defensiveness, and they read into the article the hostility they were looking for.

Some people denied that KDE had ever used FSF-copyrighted code, treating the matter as an accusation. But I was concerned with clearing away a possible problem for KDE, not making an accusation. I don't know what code is in KDE, and maybe it does not contain FSF-copyrighted code, but that isn't the point anyway. The point is to say, "If it does have any FSF-copyrighted code, that is now ok."

KDE developers have argued that all they need to do, to solve these problems where they exist, is rewrite and replace the affected code. They are right--that would solve the problem. But while writing the article, I felt that there was no reason to make them take that trouble. We can save them the trouble simply by saying, "It is ok now for KDE to use our code". I asked everyone to extend that cooperation to KDE, and did so myself to set an example. (Some people attacked me for doing this publicly; sure I could have done it privately, but that wouldn't have encouraged other people to do likewise.)

The hardest problem is probably Kghostview, because we have lost contact with the author of Ghostview. Two months ago I was trying to find Tim Theisen to ask him to enforce the GPL on Ghostview, but I could not find him. Now I would ask him to declare that Kghostview is ok, but I still have not found him. If anyone can find Tim Theisen, please put me in touch with him.

By the way, there is no need to worry about contributors who provided small bits of code (up to ten or fifteen lines), because at that size they don't make a significant legal issue.

False accusations are an injustice; here they can also lead to serious problems for the community. It would be a shame to have conflict between GNOME developers and KDE developers now that it is unnecessary. I hope that KDE developers and fans will put aside their hostility, as I put aside mine a week ago.

Copyright 2000 Richard Stallman
Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article are permitted in any medium, provided the copyright notice and this notice are preserved.

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